Saturday, June 1, 2019

21. The spaces the different elements occupy

I first became aware of the significance of the different shapes our facial expressions can take on whilst watching Princess Diana’s famous TV interview all those years ago.  I can still picture her appealing eyes looking beseechingly at the camera, and the half-open mouth, with its equally appealing look, as though saying, “Please give me something”.  The look in the eyes and the demanding pout of the mouth have remained for me since then as symbols for what a needy Earth element will demand of others.  And I see both eyes and mouth as giving the impression of something round, confirming for me that there is always something circular about Earth’s actions.  Its speech, too, tends to go round and round a topic, as though enclosing it in a ring of words.  I have therefore come to visualize Earth’s outline in all its manifestations, both physical and emotional, as creating a circle around itself, in the centre of which it tries to nestle “as snug as a bug in a rug”, as the saying goes.   Its body shape, too, often gives an impression of comfortably roundness, with yielding flesh, giving me the sense that I am somehow being enclosed within soft arms, as a mother encloses her child.  Earth is, after all, the mother element, and can never discard this role.

This has led me to compare Earth’s outlines with those of the other elements.  When I think of Wood, I immediately have a picture of straight lines, to contrast with Earth’s rounded contours.  Wood seems to me to move directly towards its goal, physically and in its speech.  Its body has firm contours, with none of Earth’s softness of flesh.  I feel that whenever I touch a Wood person, I would tend to feel firm, hard flesh, which does not yield to the touch as Earth’s does.  Its words, too, are direct and to the point, and come straight at me, pinning me down with their force.  In all that it does Wood offers clear boundaries.  I have no doubt where it is, unlike one or two of the other elements, particularly, as we will see later, Water.

Fire in nature burns strongly and at the same time flickers.  To me its outline, reflecting this, is more fluid than Wood’s, whilst it still has much of the directness and strength associated with being the most yang of all the elements.  I know where Fire is, as I do with Wood, our two yang elements, and see it as having strong contours.  Its speech is less forthright and can be more hesitant than Wood’s, but I see the element as a whole still moving in a straight line towards me, unlike that of its child, Earth.

By the time we reach Metal, in autumn, when yin now firmly takes control, although it has firm outlines, somehow I feel that I cannot grasp it in quite the same way as I can the other three elements I have discussed.  Metal eludes me, slips past me, does not want to be tied down by me.  It tends to walk very lightly, almost as though floating a little, with quiet steps.  We do not hear its feet firmly hitting the ground as we do Wood’s, or walking briskly as we do Fire’s, nor do we think of its feet as somehow embracing the ground, almost unwilling to let go of their contact with what is beneath them, as we often do with Earth’s.  I always remember a Metal patient telling me that he felt he could “go up in a puff of smoke”, and somehow this slightly ethereal feeling is there in everything Metal does, including its movements.

Finally, as always, we reach the most potentially hidden element of them all, Water, where, even more than in the case of Metal, I feel that my grasp on it is the weakest of all the elements.  It seems to slip through my fingers, so that I cannot really catch it.  For me it has the most ephemeral and fluid outline of all the elements.  I often know that I am in the presence of Water when I find myself puzzled, as though on uncertain ground, and unsure of myself, as though if I turned suddenly it will no longer be there, will have disappeared, hidden itself somewhere.  

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